Framed Gallery
African American Art
Framed Gallery
African American Art

Grace Kisa

Grace: a virtue coming from God. Her name alone conjures thoughts of kindness, morality and a general disposition of humility and love. Grace Kisa embodies all of those characteristics, but she is also a warrior—not a loud one, but a quiet warrior, one whose strength of purpose and vast imaginative capacity goes far beyond what many of us can even conceptualize.

Born in Nairobi, Kenya to loving parents, Kisa, the oldest of three girls, grew up in a global community. Her father, an economist, worked various jobs that allowed for Kisa and her family to live a very cultured and unique lifestyle. She grew up surrounded by Westerners, East Indians, and various other cultures. She was interested in art from a very young age, and she vividly recalls her uncles paintings hanging on the walls of her home in Kenya. As an inquisitive child, Kisa relished in her art classes at school, and carried her love for art home where her mother provided her with the tools to develop her work.

At age 8, she moved to Ethiopia with her family. There she studied at an American school, and was able to learn some of the ways of American culture. While in Ethiopia, Kisa experienced a creative awakening. At the young age of 10 she recognized the distinct imagery of Ethiopian art, and their unique use of seemingly traditional iconography. The Ethiopians placed images of themselves in positions of royalty, and power, even creating their images of Jesus with brown skin and coiled hair. After two years in Ethiopia, Kisa and family moved to the United States, eventually settling in McLean, Virginia.

Kisa grew up in a close-knit community with people from all over the world. Her high school represented a unique segment of America, as many of the parents of the students worked in government positions in Washington D.C. Although she lived what she calls, “a very sheltered,” and guided life, she felt freedom through creating. Her parents supported her creativity, so when she decided that she wanted to go to art school they obliged. She was accepted to the Art Institute of Atlanta, and had begun to prepare for her move to Atlanta, when her father got another position, and had to move to Botswana. For Kisa this move would be different. She was entering adulthood, and was moving into her own dreams. She spent a few months in Botswana while her family got settled, and then moved back to America in time to begin living in the dorms at the Art Institute of Atlanta.

Her first time on her own—away from her family in a new a different part of the country—could have been a shock, but she was lucky enough to have a roommate who shared a very similar background with her. Being from Cameroon, and moving to an international community in the Maryland area, her friend had many similar stories to share with her. The two of them connected, and were able to move through Atlanta’s metropolitan landscape together. For Kisa, living in Atlanta was very different—the culture and lifestyle was ironically very foreign to her, and though she was shy, she had to learn to adapt as she had often done in her life. 

She majored in Advertising Design, and delved deeply into her studies. She worked for a sportswear company producing graphics while she studied and was able to get real world experience for her major. When she graduated she was in search of a job like most young college graduates. She took a job in retail for a time until she landed a job working for a production company called Graphic Du Jour. The position called for her to create original reproductions on a daily basis. She recalled emphatically, “I painted 8 hours a day…I loved it…I didn’t want to wash the paint off of my hands!”

One day her employers (who were in search of new employees) asked her to tell some of her friends about the position. The only one that responded was artist Maurice Evans. She had met Evans during her college orientation, and had seen his work throughout the school. The company hired Evans for the position and they began working together. They were both in their early twenties and they both enjoyed their position with Graphic Du Jour.

Kisa says that she learned a lot working at such a fast pace and creating paintings on demand. The position helped to sharpen her creative skills for her own personal work. After 3 years of working with Graphic Du Jour honing her creative skills, Kisa left the downsizing company. She would eventually come to work with another publishing company who offered her similar work, Arts by Todd. Eventually Evans would join her there as well. With the assistance of Arts by Todd, she and Maurice traveled to the New York Art Expo to sell their work. Her experience with her new employer would soon dissipate, as she decided that she did not want to bind herself or her creativity into a contract. She decided to delve head first into her personal work, and pursue her artistic dreams full time. She participated in her first group show at age 25, and at age 26 she had a solo exhibition where she sold her first painting for $2500.                 

Kisa says that she is moved to create things that push her creative boundaries. As a photographer, painter, sculptor, designer, stylist and make-up artist, she is driven to produce imagery inspired by the avant-garde. Her recent sculpture projects were inspired by a photography series that she is working on with Maurice Evans called, “The New Africans.” The series, which focuses on portraying Africans in a futuristic manner, was styled by Kisa. Many of the unique materials that she used for the styling in the photo shoot are used in her sculptures. She also uses cut wood, and wood burning techniques to create these one of a kind pieces. She has been working on her sculptures for ten years, and has been moving forward with style and technique. She says of her art, “my work is not grounded in today.”

Her works transcends all races. She says that her work is not just black and white, it encompasses the human experience, and as a black woman she creates art from her own personal experience.

Kisa’s work can be soft and subtle or eclectically vibrant and edgy. She allows herself to create from an authentic place pulling herself in and out of different realms in her mind. Grace Kisa is an amazing human being with a beautiful spirit. Her art simply reflects the depths of her personality.

  • Dhow Digger
    Wood Block Print